I got asthma in the ‘70s. Those were the days when the tendency was to ‘hide’ the disease. Those were also the days when Doctors would say asthma is location dependent.
So I got Asthma Version 1 when I came to Delhi from Washington D.C. Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari cured me of Version 1 with 1stubborn yoga in 1980, only for Version 2 to appear 2 years later when I went to Roorkee (to join what is now called IIT). During a very short visit to the Pilani-in-the-Desert I encountered Version 3i, which was so bad that instead of me getting asthma, asthma almost got me!
What muggles ask runners
I run. I run distances from 3 kilometres to 80 kilometres. It’s my health thing. It’s my Facebook thing. It’s my happiness thing. Running is just my thing! Now, most runners, when they state the above, get the usual muggle questions from Friends and Family (F&F):
“Why do you run?”
“Do you run 80km nonstop?”
“Is it safe?”
“How are your knees” (for that my friend Rishi Madan has a standard response. He shows off his calf muscles instead)
“When do you run?”
“Did you win?”
“Why do you run?”
What people ask asthmatic runners
None of those questions for me. The moment people know I have asthma and know I run, the reaction is totally different. Here are some typical reactions from Friends and Family
F&F1: “Why do you run?”
F&F2: (Totally disbelieves me and let’s me live the lie. Has the expression of Kate’s fiancé in Titanic):
“Hey, great job. Way to go. Keep us posted.”(I’m going to cross check, dude. Asthmatics can’t run)
F&F3: (Shocked. Has the expression of Amitabh Bachchan looking at a dying Rajesh Khanna in Anand):
“Hey, great job. Way to go. Keep us posted.”(So we know how long you live. Be-chara)
F&F4: (Has no idea what asthma is or how running is affected by it. Has the expression of Kanwaljeet or Uday Chopra in every movie): “Hey, great job. Way to go. Keep us posted.”(Where is the butter chicken, yaar?)
F&F5: “Why the f**** do you run?”
F&F6 (Runner): (Has no idea what asthma is or how running is affected by it. Is full of himself. Has the expression of a runner who is full of himself):
“You run despite asthma? Great job! (Let me not embarrass you by 2asking your timing)
That underlines it: running despite asthma.
And that’s what I need to dispel here. Asthmatics don’t run long distance despite asthma. It’s asthma that actually ups their endurance.
An Indian summer
As a ten year old, I endured eight Indian springs before the inhaler came into our lives. My summer break would start with a fortnight of being hunched up on bed, with all the pillows in the house, trying to reach that rare position where I could breathe easy and feel some comfort. That one hour of intense panting after a meal when you knew that you could do nothing except wait for the medicine to take effect. And that woozy feeling once the medicine did set in.
Sorry if I am trying to cut a poor-little-boy figure here. However, just like the sex scene in every Indian movie, this description was essential to drive the point home.
It’s that fortnight of breathlessness that actually gives and asthmatic two of the three things a distance runner needs: endurance of the body and resilience of the mind.
Once the inhalers and steroids came in, I had my but of fun in college, and even did my bit of heavy smoking, till a pretty little girl told me to stop. And I stopped. For a lifetime. But that’s another story.
In next edition of this three part series, we will look at Asthma and Running, Barefoot Running, Rain, Smog and Asthma Season
1stubborn yoga: not to be confused with hatha yoga, which is one of the highest forms of yoga. In this case, I was the disinterested teenager, but my family and Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari stubbornly kept at it, and, despite me, cured me of yoga in 60 days.
2asking your timing: never ask a woman her age, a man his salary and a runner his timing –new Concrete Jungle saying.
About the Author
Sanjeev Chhabra , 53, a management consultant in the infrastructure industry, is a true maverick runner, and one of the pioneers of Delhi’s first night running club.
Sanjeev is doing a Three Series Blog on Asthma and Running for WellthyFit. In next edition of this three part series, we will look at Asthma and Running, Barefoot Running, Rain, Smog and Asthma Season.